Happy New Year! 新年快乐，恭喜发财！2021 was an interesting year for learning Chinese. With the possibility of visiting China off the table for most students, immersing ourselves in the culture became more of a challenge - swapping out casual conversation with online language exchange, sharing stories with Chinese movies, and experiencing the culture first-hand replaced with a trip to your local hotpot restaurant.
Whilst the odds of getting to visit this year may still be slim for most of us this year, we can use the lessons learned in the previous twelve months to guide and better structure our learning in the new year.
Inspired by the many insightful comments shared on this Chinese-Forums thread, I've decided this year to share my plans, goals, and ambitions for learning Mandarin through the year of the tiger.
My biggest language goal for the 2022 is to nail all of the HSK3 vocabulary and grammar, then pass HSK4 by year end. Looking back, I feel like I've dragged my feet at progressing through the HSK levels. As much as my vocabulary and understanding has improved, my focus for a long time had been unimportant colloquialisms and topics, rather than important structures covered in the exams.
This year, I plan to focus my efforts across the four main domains of learning Mandarin, with an end goal of passing HSK4 by next Spring Festival.
My ultimate goal this year is to get my Chinese to a level where falling back to English isn't a necessity for most conversation. This won't be easy, requiring considerable effort to avoid English where possible. Achieving this goal first begins in Chinese class, so I'll ask my teacher to use English as little as possible and remind myself to do the same.
First and foremost
First and foremost, I need to build my vocabulary 词汇 and grammar 文法 base. For this goal, I'm going to continue much of what has worked in the past, but with improved discipline.
- First exposure to new grammar with HSK Standard Course textbooks and Chinese Zero to Hero video courses.
- Cementing understanding with private Chinese lessons
- Revising and using what I learn as often as possible.
Largely, I find reading at my level quite straight forward. My big struggle with reading however comes both in the form of reading-aloud and confusing similar characters.
To improve reading generally, I'll be using a combination of DuChinese and Graded Readers to boost this skills fluency. Ill both make an effort to read to myself and read aloud, to make my reading in Chinese class more natural.
Further, coupling the use of Anki decks and Quizlet cards to review new characters, keeping them fresh in my mind - not to mention long-time confusing and challenging characters!
- Quizlet & Anki decks
- Graded readers
When talking with friends, I find my listening isn't too bad, and the same is true with teachers. However, when listening to practice questions for the HSK exam I always seriously struggle. I'm not sure why, perhaps it's a combination of others speaking slower for my benefit and HSK voice actors being somewhat muffled and fast. Therefore, whilst I definitely want listening to be a focus this year, I think it can be a skill learned less deliberately and more passively whilst I study. I plan to watch far more Chinese TV and movies, which will massively improve comprehension - especially if I try without subtitles. Beyond media, making more casual and deep conversation with friends (and waiters) is a personal goal for the year, especially as opportunities to socialise should be more realistic this year!
Additional to these points, I also intend to deliberately focus on honing in my listening skills by performing some drills with DuChinese. Listening to a story, without reading the content, is a good place to start - and further, attempting to transcribe as much of the story character-for-character as I can comprehend.
- More conversation
- More Chinese TV shows and Movies
- Listening to DuChinese stories and rewriting them
Speaking Chinese with others isn't an issue for me. The problem I have is being understood 哈哈. By actively trying to speak Mandarin as often as possible, with friends, service workers and strangers, I hope I'll 'pick up' better pronunciation and confidence when speaking. Improving speaking goes hand-in-hand with listening. Focusing on distinguishing tones and pronunciation when listening, I'll better know how to speak myself, also.
- Paying more attention to tones
- Making new Chinese friends, and speaking more Mandarin
So far, I have almost entirely neglected writing. Catching up to my current vocabulary with perfect stroke order is an incredible task, so I'm setting my sights a little shorter, here. So long as I can write the characters needed for HSK exams, I'll be happy. My plan for this is to first drill characters using Skritter, then to begin using Chinese to write my own to-do lists and personal notes.
- Write Chinese in my daily life
- Practice stroke order using Skritter
I appreciate these goals are quite significant, and without making dedicated study a priority in my routine, these goals won't come to fruition. All I can hope is that the Chinese learning gods are kind to me, and that my motivation and discipline doesn't wean by year end.
If you're on your own Mandarin learning journey - whether you just started today or you're a polyglot who has lived in China for 15 years - Consider subscribing to Mandarin Resource - you'll find insightful and opinionated reviews, introductions to Chinese culture, and my first-hand perspectives every step of the way.